Chicago Blackhawks’ Line Changes Fail To Improve Offensive Output

By Stephen Yatsushiro
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27: Pekka Rinne
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27: Pekka Rinne /

The Chicago Blackhawks’ offensive slump continued Friday night against the Nashville Predators despite line changes.

Two days off after a stinging loss to the upstart Las Vegas Knights? Check. Two days of practice with new lines? Check. Two days of practice on the powerplay? Check. One period of offensive pressure? Check. A complete game? Ummmmm.

The Chicago Blackhawks could not find their offense despite all of these situations and adjustments, losing 2-1 to the Nashville Predators on Friday. They have a chance to quickly turn things around tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

However, before the Blackhawks try to get back on track against the Avs, let’s look back to last night’s game — specifically the offense.

The numbers don’t lie

I tracked the game shift by shift for the quality of play, using terms of plus, even and minus.  By periods, it looked like this:

For a look at the grading by lines:

So what we see here is the obvious fact that the ‘Hawks came out strong in the first period, faltered in the second and then came out strong once again in the third. Here are the other conclusions:

  • Line 1 had the most even shifts, where not much happened.  The addition of Alex DeBrincat did not positively affect this line.  However, the eye test says he was adequate and needs time to build chemistry with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.
  • Line 2 had the most minus shifts, during which they were spending more time in their own zone.  The addition of Richard Panik was not a good fit.  Their offensive possession was hamstrung by his inability to anticipate what Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz were going to do with the puck. His movement with and without the puck is not conducive to their style of play.  This line’s puck possession increased when John Hayden was inserted at left wing.
  • Line 3 did not show up as having the most of any category of shift.  The group was actually adequate, as

    Artem Anisimov

    played with more intensity alongside the high-energy Hayden at right wing.

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    Line 4 had the most plus shifts, as it controlled play in the offensive zone.  Unfortunately, it did not convert on any of its scoring chances.

    Additional observations

    I had reservations about Panik on Line 2 prior to the game, and those doubts were validated by his play.  I still feel that Ryan Hartman should play on this line at left wing.

    Hartman’s ability to read the play makes him a good compliment to Kane and Schmaltz.  When that line can create a “maelstrom” effect, defenders will commit an error in coverage and open up shooting lanes. Hartman had no noticeable effect on Line 4.

    After harping about Anisimov previously, he redeemed himself with a shorthanded tally and better intensity on LIne 3.  He continues to be solid on the penalty kill but needs to start showing up in the production numbers in 5-on-5 play.

    The powerplay continues to be a sore spot.  However, on the first powerplay, DeBrincat looked like he was at a shooting gallery with shot after shot.  This needs to continue.

    What also needs to continue is the offensive intensity we saw in Periods 1 and 3.  It is important to note that in Period 3, coach Joel Quenneville was mixing up the lines with positive results.  The defense was a revolving door of combinations all night with mixed results.

    Next: 5 Thoughts After Blackhawks' Loss To Predators

    So the ‘Hawks move on to Colorado tonight, and we will see what, if any, changes they will make to their offensive game.  Regardless of what line changes are made, the players will have to start showing a consistency of effort.